Sunday, September 26, 2010

The world of women

A woman's world, I realized during the last one week is an extremely complex one-so I thought I should start this blog with my thoughts on this.

Our female world has unwritten rules with boundries that are defined by the roles we play. It is surprising that I had never realized this earlier! I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that I had been brought up very differently from other women- my father brought both me and my sister up as human beings and not as girls (though my mother did try her best to shape us to fit into the female world better). A career in a non traditional sector like development,  gave me an opportunity to analyze the lives of other women purely from an academic point of view looking for windows of opportunity for interventions  to improve their lives.

But it was not until  I got maried that I realized that I am very much part of this world - especially when I play the role of a daughter-in- law.

As  a daughter- in- law from another community I found myself in a situation where I had to tread carefully ( to put it mildly). My mother-in- law after the inital hiccups had accepted me with open arms. Women as we know are the gatekeepers to the family relationships defining by their behaviour who is " in" and who is "out" I recall now that this acceptance from my mother in law -a senior woman of the family was the first step in my acceptance into the world of the women of my husband's family and community.

She used to take me with her for all social events introducing me as her younger daughter-in- law. I think the message that she was giving out was " She is now part of our family even though she does not belong to our religion. If you disrespect her you disrespect me".  No one from her family, during her life time dared to be rude to me.  She guided me through the social intricacies of the world of women in her community where I learnt who was to be called "Ammachi" and who was to be addressed as "Kochamma". She taught me the customs and traditions of her community and helped me fit in. I on my part decided to  keep my "controversial" opinions to myself because I did not want to tip this fine balance that she had established.

I saw this world change breifly, after her death last week at her funeral. Without her beside me, I experienced for the first time in fifteen years a feeling of exclusion. I had to literally fight for my rights as a former care giver   of the dead person to bathe and dress her body for the last time! I also realized that  few people from my in laws family were  offering their condolences to me- Did they not think that a daughter in law may actually grow to love her mother in law through fifteen years of living in the same home? But as it was pointed out to me by one of my friends -   we women are defined by our associations - whose wife, whose daugther  etc.  In a woman's world, it is not enough to be a man's  wife- you require certification from another woman to be accepted.

For those few hours when my home was without its rightful mistress- the women of the family were not ready to transfer powers of control to me ( though I was the  operations manager right through the years of my marriage). They decided to order the shamiana, tea. snacks and even decided where it should be served and in which vessels

But as they say " The Queen is dead- long live the Queen". There is always one matriarch to replace another in a family. I found a subtle change in the situation when my mother - in - law's younger sister arrived on the scene. I saw the way in which she quietly took on the mantle of her older sister. Women of the family  began defering to her for her opinion .

 I  appreciate the way she quickly perceived my exclusion and reached out to include me in the activities at home. The situation further improved in my favour when my mother-in-law's friends started coming in and each of those dear old ladies reached out to me demonstrating in every way that they accepted and acknowledged me completely as a member of the family and of their community. So now I found that the same women who had excluded me  asked me " Do you want the phone number of the caterer?" " Do you have a bigger vessel for the rice?" It was quite interesting to see this change! I almost sensed my mother in law smiling from wherever she was at that point- I also sensed a feeling of achievement in her sister who realized that she had been accepted and acknowledged as the matriarch !

Post funeral I have been reflecting- is all this so important to me?  I think it is -because families are all about acceptances and inclusions. In Indian families women play an important role in keeping this going. We need to bend the rules of our world a little and include more women into the inner circle- that is what keeps female fraternity going. Elders play an important role in this but  we younger women can appreciate this more and stop being threatened by each other. Threat perceptions do not build solidarity. Acceptances and inclusions do...!!! 

11 comments:

C. Vasanth said...

The mother-in-law - daughter-in-law equation is an ongoing legend. I think you were very fortunate to have a mother-in-law who accepted you as a part of the family - something that is at variance from the stereotype. I think its a result of sound education and upbringing from both of you.

Yes, a woman's world is indeed different and complex. I think it would have been a challenge even if it did not involve an inter-religious marriage. The dynamics would have just been different.

I saw my own eldest sister initially struggling with the idea of her son marrying a malayali girl from another religion. The malayali girl is now as much a part of our extended family as any of the church-going types.

Communicating with my own mother was difficult for me. With that kind of experience, I appreciate your relationship with your mother-in-law.

Your blog makes interesting reading - especially in helping men gain insight into the female world. Keep going at it Meera, I am sure you have many more interesting things to share!

శిరీష said...

Dear Meera,

Congratulations and welcome to the blog world. you have so many more experiences and u have special lens to see the things differently. it will be very useful for somany ppl to understand the things differently from a different angle. wish you happy blogging.

శిరీష said...

please remove word verification. so that we can comment freely

Deepa said...

Welcome to the world of blogging. From my own experience, it is a wonderful place to express yourself. Be prepared for bouquets and brickbats! The personal is political and I see you've plunged headlong into that. Good writing. Good luck and look forward to see your posts in the future.

Guru said...

I can fully appreciate what you have said and the last point you have made so well...that solidarity is a function of acceptances and inclusion. I would say that building families and communities is also about exclusion and inclusion. In my own family--on both sides, i.e., my side and my wife's side, I have found that when the new wife comes into the family, not all parents have been able to overcome their inbuilt inability to accept and include the new entrant in the heart of the family. There is some kind of a learned helplessness, a sort of automatic behaviour which prevents this integration, with disastrous consequences not just for the girl who comes in, but for her husband and the entire family. When you look at communities, is this not what the problem is: one of learned behaviours, leading to automatic helplessness? An unquestioning acceptance of the way things are--to use an oft quoted (though very irritating) expression, "we are like this only...?" You have been very fortunate that in her life time, your mother in law accepted you with her full heart and embraced you. You are blessed! May her soul rest in peace.

lilyofthevalley said...

First of all my deepest condolences on your loss.
Secondly welcome to blogging!
Thirdly, I completely endorse your views on this. More when we meet.

You can check out my blog at:
http://verve15.blogspot.com/
I'm extremely erratic though!

cc said...

Hi, It was very nice and let it go into more areas. wish you happy blogging.

Love, Xavier

komal said...

The world of women, so very true, its very beautifully expressed Meera, I could actually feel what you must have been through. Congratulations on your blog and eager so much more from you :)

Luv
Komal

meerasrajan said...

Thanks Komal.

indrani singh said...

Hey Meera,

"Threat perceptions do not build solidarity. Acceptances and inclusions do...!!!"

So very true. Kudos to you for having penned your experiences, opinions and learnings so well .
Keep your blog going Meera, surely there will the likes of me to read and relish! All bests!

simple girl..... said...

A bang on first post.. loved reading it.. :)

Post a Comment

 
;